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Watching Troy Burn
Don't worry Aeneas, you'll make those Greeks pay.

Watching Troy Burn is what the heroes do as they see a home or place they care about being attacked and possibly even having already been destroyed. And the thing that makes it so heart-wrenching to them is that for some reason, there's nothing that they can do about it. This trope is often paired with a camera technique to personalize this and drive it home to the viewers, who (let's face it) have likely been desensitized to this sort of thing. The camera will show the heroes approach a cliff/window and get a Reaction Shot of each, then turn and take a good, long look at the burning/ruined panorama, zooming from behind the heroes to a birds eye view. They'll likely stand agape, The Chick will likely cling to The Hero and turn away from the carnage, and at least one hero will fall to their knees and/or scream to the heavens.

It doesn't have to be their actual hometown, or even a town. A bad guy thrashing the hero's secret base, a Base on Wheels, or a friendly king's castle can have the same effect. Basically, any landmark/large object/population center the heroes have a large emotional attachment to can be the "Troy." That said, burning a place that is physically gorgeous like the Shining City can have double the emotional impact. Villains into Evil Gloating will likely enjoy forcing a captured hero watch the destruction.

The placement of Watching Troy Burn in a story changes its intended effect. When used at the beginning it's a Doomed Hometown, meant to make it personal for the heroes. In the middle of a story, it ups the emotional stakes, Anyone Can Die and this Big Bad is not a Harmless Villain whose defeat will ensure no harm happens. In the end, and it's likely a cause for a Downer Ending or at best Bittersweet Ending. May lead to The Ruins I Caused, although often enough the hero is not given the chance to look back.

This trope is named for the city of Troy, which after years of being besieged was penetrated by the Trojan Horse and razed to the ground. All over Helen.

Often preceded by All Your Base Are Belong to Us. See also A Million is a Statistic. Not to be confused with While Rome Burns.

As you can guess, this is a Spoiler trope, so read the examples at your own risk.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga 
  • The destruction of the Black Lagoon's dock and headquarters can be seen from the water during the Greenback Jane arc, while the boat is hauling engine to get there on time. They don't, but, it is rebuilt.
  • Pejite in Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind.
  • Robin from One Piece, as the only survivor from Ohara, sailed away watching the island burn up in an inferno.
  • In the Wham Episode of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, this happens to the Section Six HQ.
  • The fortress of Alania in Record of Lodoss War, with the heroes escaping to witness its destruction by the Black Knight, Ashram.
  • The titular character of Naruto returns to his beloved village... to find it has been crushed into a rubble-filled crater with hundreds, if not thousands, dead. While the deaths were reversed, this made the actual objective of Akatsuki painfully clear.
  • Code Geass begins with the nation of Japan being attacked and occupied by Britannian forces as Lelouch and Suzaku, who are residing there, helplessly watch.
  • Attack on Titan starts with Shingashina falling to the Titans after a hundred years. As Armin, Eren, and Mikasa sail away on a boat they hear the cries of fear and see the smoke rising from several places. Bonus points for Shingashina actually being surrounded by walls thought to be impregnable.

    Comic Books 
  • Issue 700 of Action Comics has Perry White watch helplessly as Metropolis is destroyed by missiles meant to destroy the city in case of an alien invasion. They were launched because of a lackey of Lex Luthor's refused to believe his boss would willingly surrender to Superman.
  • Issue 175 of Sonic the Hedgehog had Eggman invade and raze Knothole to the ground. Sonic made it back after being attacked by Snively with enough time to watch Castle Acorn be obliterated.

    Film 
  • Home Tree in Avatar.
  • The first Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers movie had Ivan Ooze smash their base and leave Zordon dying.
  • The bull dragon attacking the keep in Reign of Fire applies here, especially as Christian Bale's character has to watch from the outside at first.
  • Vulcan in the latest Star Trek movie.
  • Princess Leia is forced to watch as the Death Star annihilates her planet, Alderaan in Star Wars: A New Hope. The kicker is she had a front row seat because she was on the Death Star!
    • And the "burning homestead" scene.
  • Padme watching the Jedi Temple burn in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.
  • The film Troy has a pretty heart wracking shot with Priam watching as the Greeks pillage his city. Functions as a big Kick the Dog moment for Agamemnon and the Greeks as a whole.
  • Haven in Serenity. This one comes as a double blow due to Shepherd Book being killed along with the settlers in the attack, but not before taking the enemy's ship with him (not that he's proud of it).
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: The freaking Enterprise, man.
  • A villainous example: Cutler Beckett as his ship is torn to splinters.
  • In the second film of The Matrix, Morpheus's ship the Nebuchadnezzar explodes after the Sentinels destroy it.
  • In the film version of The Two Towers Arethen and Freda stop a moment to watch their village be burned by wildmen before they flee to Edoras.
  • The entire Dark Knight Saga can be summed up as Bruce's struggle to prevent this from happening to Gotham and his numerous failings along the way.
  • Watching the Iso cities burn and the portal back to his own world flicker out is what pushes Flynn well past Despair Event Horizon in TRON: Legacy.
  • Mickey's mom's trailer in Snatch.
  • The Hobbit: Unlike the book, Smaug's reason for destroying Laketown is because he wants Bilbo to watch Laketown burn.

    Literature 
  • Book II of Virgil's Aeneid depicts the fall of Troy from Aeneas's point of view, replete with descriptions of fire and the destruction.
  • Wyatt's Torch in Atlas Shrugged.
  • In book two of the Nightrunner series, Seregil's real home at the Cockerel is destroyed and everyone inside mutilated. He burns the remains himself.
  • In the final story arc of Animorphs, Jake, Marco and Tobias watch as Bug fighters burn their hometown to nothing to make a dead zone around their mothership's landing site.
  • In "The Scouring of the Shire" in The Lord of the Rings, the hobbits return to their home to find Saruman has taken control and done his best to ruin it (However, it's not utterly destroyed and Sam's gift from Galadriel repairs a lot of the damage afterwards).
  • In the After the End novel Bone Dance, the protagonist, Sparrow, has lovingly assembled a large collection of pre-war music and video. Halfway through the book, the Big Bad sets Sparrow's entire building ablaze, out of sheer cruelty. Sparrow has to be physically restrained from running inside.
  • In the second book of A Song of Ice and Fire, Theon watches Winterfell go up in flames, and Bran surveys the destruction afterward.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar universe, upon returning to their homeland after the Cataclysm, the Kaled'a'in find a glass-floored crater where it had been, and look down from the cliff walls into it.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • In The New Prophecy, all the Clans go through this when the humans destroy their forest and they have to watch, knowing there's nothing they can do about it. One of the more impressive of these scenes comes at the end of Midnight when Firestar watches as a bulldozer uproots Fourtrees, the ancient oak trees that the Clans thought would stand forever.
    • The SkyClan saga prequel novella Cloudstar's Journey shows this happening to SkyClan while their home is developed to make way for a suburb. Cloudstar is helpless as trees around him are torn down, and it's pretty heartbreaking.
    • Happens in the Warrior's Refuge and Warrior's Return comic book spinoffs when Graystripe triumphantly returns to the forest, only to find it completely destroyed. He wanders around the destruction for a little while before Millie convinces him that his Clanmates are still out their somewhere.

     Live Action TV  
  • In Smallville, Vessel. Clark Kent and Chloe Sullivan watches as Metropolis burns in the chaos brought by Brainiac's virus that heralds the arrival of Zod. Leads to a massively heartwarming moment as Chloe convinces Clark to leave her and the city to confront Zod, Clark complies but not before they share a powerful Now or Never Kiss.
    • In Kandor, Zod and Jor-El watches as Kandor explodes in the distance.
  • A lot of the miniseries for Battlestar Galactica and the mirror version The Plan showed the devastation of the Cylon attack, and the emotional devastation it wrought.
    • The iconic photo of the soldier, fallen to his knees, in front of the burning skyline of the capitol city on Aerilon jumps to mind as a perfect example.
  • Doctor Who, "The Fires of Pompeii".
    • Another curious example. Although not a strict example of this trope, as it is not observed by any of the characters, anyone who is familiar with the brief views of Gallifrey in the classic series, the short flashback in The Sound of the Drums or at the very least comprehends the awe of the place from the descriptions given by the Doctor in the TV Movie and the New Series, will feel this trope when they see the brief view of Gallifrey during the Time War in The End of Time, with the smashed Citadel, wreckages of Dalek ships and fires.
  • Detective Kathy Mallory has her childhood home (which is described as being the only place she has any emotional attachment to) with all her deceased parents' belongings burned to the ground in Killing Critics.
  • Power Rangers Turbo ends with Divatox's force invading, destroying and completely leveling the Command Center with the rangers still inside. They manage to survive but just barely.
  • In Supernatural's pilot episode, John Winchester watches his home burn with his wife inside while holding his two young sons.

     Video Games  
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy II's PlayStation remake opens with the four protagonists, Firion, Maria, Guy, and Leon, fleeing from their burning hometown after the Emperor's forces have set torch to it. The cinema ends with them watching the conflagration from a nearby hilltop.
    • Final Fantasy VII: Poor Cloud and Tifa go through this particular trauma several times throughout the course of the game. They see their hometown of Nibelheim burn to the ground once in person and then several times more thanks to Sephiroth's Mind Rapes and uncanny tendency to replay the scene whenever taunting Cloud.
    • Final Fantasy IX has several of these where summons are used as weapons of mass destruction. You are generally treated to the complete destruction, or in the very least decimation, of every single town or settlement, and in one case an entire planet, that you visit. Dagger's first hometown, the Village of the Summoners gets Death from Above from Garland before the game starts. Freya's hometown of Burmecia is a charred ruin by the time you arrive, Cleyra and its population get hit with Odin, whose attack sequence plays out like an atom bomb. Lindblum is treated to a dual attack by Brahne's black mages and the summoned Atmos. In a serious Player Punch, Alexandria is ravaged by Bahamut, becomes a battleground between it and Alexander, before being carpet-bombed by Garland- leaving poor Dagger mute. Finally, Terra is treated to multiple Ultimas via Kuja.
    • Inverted in Final Fantasy X, where the game starts off with Tidus beholding the ruins of his hometown, Zanarkand, before the 30-40 hour long flashback that is the game up to that point.
      • Played straight with Rikku and the Al Bhed watching the destruction of Home.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics: Fort Zeakden isn't Ramza's hometown, but what happens there is still enough to change not only his outlook on life but the fate of Ivalice as a whole, and the first chapter ends on a freeze frame of it going up in flames.
  • Happens in Golden Sun: The Lost Age.
  • Happens thrice in Suikoden V. The first occurs after the coup, a major Player Punch accompanied by a real sense of loss even if it's sort of a Foregone Conclusion. The second is Lelcar being set ablaze, driving home just how far the enemy is willing to go since it's one of their own cities they're torching. The third is the attack on Beaver Lodge, which pushes the enemy from any argument of Well-Intentioned Extremist to monsters openly planning genocide to "purify Falena." In all cases, the target is the hometown of several of the Stars of Destiny, and attention is always given to their reaction.
  • Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Washington, D.C.
  • The ending of Vietcong.
  • The beginning of Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger, when Luke Skywalker and Gimli view the wreckage of the TCS Concordia.
  • Once could say that Halo: Reach, is really just about this. Reach is doomed and mostly depopulated, but you stay in the burning ruins to the very end.
    • Played especially straight at the opening cutscene of the Exodus level, when Noble Six crests a hill, only to see the "crown jewel" city of New Alexandria being razed and glassed by the Covenant. Includes a drawn-out camera reveal over the hill and a brief pause as Six surveys the damage, poignantly holding Jorge's dogtags.
  • Mass Effect has several; namely the Citadel at the end of the first game, the Normandy SR1 at the beginning of the second, and Earth itself, Palaven, the turian homeworld - at one point Garrus identifies the biggest area that's on fire as his birthplace and Thessia, the asari homeworld in Mass Effect 3.
  • The Monastery near the beginning of Jade Empire also serves as an example.
  • Alluded to in Knights of the Old Republic as the heroes flee the bombing of Taris. Carth and Mission particularly take it hard.
  • Homeworld: Kharak in Mission 3. The burning planet serves as a backdrop as your forces rush to save the last 600,000 civilian survivors.
  • Done in both Freespace and the Silent Threat expansion. In the original, you have to try to fend of high-speed fighters in a bomber before an invincible superdestroyer finishes of the GTD Galatea, your homebase for the first half of the campaign. In the expansion, you can't keep the GTI insurgency from destroying the GTD Krios, your homebase for the first part of the campaign. The emotional impact is helped by the fact that the main menu is the interior of the ship you are based on, so when they are destroyed and you have to relocate to another destroyer, the graphic changes.
  • In Video Game Dead Island, several locations that you travel to where survivors are gathered up get attacked and overtaken by zombies after certain quests are completed.
  • The burning of Croft Manor in Tomb Raider Underworld.
  • The beginning of the A Dance with Rogues module. The Princess witnesses the destruction and slaughter that's taking place in her castle as she flees from the invading Dhorn. Later on, when she becomes a rogue and part of the Family criminal guild, the Dhorn again storm into their headquarters and kill almost everyone, with the Princess being unable to stop them.
  • In Hyrule Total War, this happens to Princess Zelda I when she witnesses the razing of Hyrule Castle at the hands of Ganon.

    Web Comics 

     Western Animation 
  • At the beginning of An American Tail, the village of Shostka, Russia suffers a pogrom at the hands of Russian Cossacks, and their pet cats. They set fire to most of the buildings, and after the Mousekewitz family survives the attack, they watch from a distance as their village goes up in flames. Thus, they decide to go to America, where there are no cats. Or so they think...
  • In the season 3 finale of ReBoot we see Mainframe crash. Basically the entire city falls apart and everything but the Principal Office falls into the energy sea. The final shot is Dot and Bob staring at each other while everything fades to black. Fortunately The User intervenes and fixes everything.
  • This happens in Mulan, directly cutting off a cheery song to show us the burnt ruins of a village and an entire army.
    • This can be heard in the soundtrack - where the final note just fades with a kind of horrified confusion.
  • Subverted in Avatar: The Last Airbender : at the end of the second season, our heroes take one last look at Ba Sing Se (now under enemy control). But the fallen capital doesn't look any different, because the takeover was entirely political.
  • In the Sequel, The Legend of Korra, it goes the other way with Amon and the Equalists decimating the Pro-bending stadium and blowing up the ring. Unlike Ba Sing Se, everything is a wreck.
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven has the two main characters looking from afar as the nightclub they set up goes up in flames.
  • In The Dark Crystal, Jen watches as Aughra's lab is destroyed by the Garthim and Aughra is taken prisoner.


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